Today’s statement issued by the Department of Communications (DoC) on its “successful inaugural ICT Indaba” does nothing but add to the smokescreen Minister Dina Pule has tried to create to deflect attention from the real issue at hand: whether a man with whom she is believed to be romantically linked benefitted improperly from an event which she hosted.
The Department’s statement goes to great lengths to emphasise the fact that the Auditor General’s (AG’s) investigation into the matter has cleared the Minister of any wrongdoing.
The scope of the AG’s investigation, however, was limited to “focus on the payment of R10 million from the Department of Communications to the ICT Indaba to ensure that due process was followed by the department”.
The R10 million spent by the DoC is, however, not central to the controversy surrounding the Minister’s role in hosting the Indaba. Reports continue to emerge of the Minister’s potential conflict of interest in involving Phosane Mngqibisa, the man with whom she is said to be romantically linked, in organising the ICT Indaba. There are now also reports of a “dossier of allegations”, compiled by DoC officials, linking the Minister to a web of nepotism in the department.
Indeed, during our correspondence with the AG’s office we were informed by the AG’s Corporate Executive Alice Muller, that “a review of the role of the Minister, the spending of funds by the event organiser and the basis on which money was contributed by other institutions were explicitly excluded from the scope.”
We therefore reiterate our call to the Public Protector to respond to our request for an investigation under the Public Protector’s Act and for the Chairperson of Parliament’s Ethics Committee to accede to our request for an investigation. We will also ask the Public Protector’s office to follow up on reports of the “dossier of allegations” and to include information from this dossier in her investigations.
Only a thorough and transparent investigation of the facts around the execution of the Indaba can clear the Minister’s name. If, as Minister Pule claims, she inherited the arrangement between Carol Bower and the Minister’s alleged love interest Mr Mngqibisa, alarm bells should have rung out about the potential for a conflict of interest and she should have taken steps to ensure Mr Mngqibisa did not benefit from the ICT Indaba.
The Minister seems to suffer from an integrity deficit.